How to Do Virtual Events in the Time of COVID-19 (and beyond) — 17 crowdsourced tips for those working for the public good with insights from behavioral science

A few weeks ago, we wrote a list oriented towards public servants summarising our top tips for running virtual events. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, we believe that the art of doing a virtual event is going to become increasingly important, even when we can return to our offices and meet in-person again. We opened up the document to the wider world, and over the course of a week and one-half, we received the comments and inputs from dozens of people in our wider network who wanted to share their experience and advice they have gathered. Find below the results. We plan for this to be an evolving piece. If you want to contribute your advice or feedback, do get in touch.

In the coming weeks, we will also be producing a compact pdf with these tips in. When it’s ready, you will be able to download it here and on our website too.


Apolitical is a peer-to-peer learning platform for government, equipping governments with the 21st-century skills and knowledge they need to tackle 21st-century problems.

We’re used by more than 60,000 verified public servants and policymakers in 170 countries, from mayors to ministers to millennial digital innovators. Due to the global nature of our work, we deliver nearly all of our learning and exchanges online — with groups ranging anywhere from 5 to 1000+.

Over the years we have experimented with ways to effectively engage and support our members through online social learning, events and meetings. The list is especially oriented towards public servants who are so critically needed at this point of the global COVID-19 pandemic. We know that some of these points are obvious and many of them, but not all, can be equally applied to offline events as well.

Big Picture:

Virtual upsides — Climate, health, and productivity: There are upsides to virtual-only events. We have seen that remote events can, when done right, be a more democratic way to bring people together. They are more inclusive and definitely more affordable — you can’t be denied a visa and don’t need a travel budget to join an online event. Environmentally, the less we rely on air travel to conduct events, the better. More virtual gatherings can also result in people spending less time away from family, being healthier and even improving productivity.

Do we have much of a choice? Online is the new normal: Whether we’d all choose this or not, COVID-19 will make online events the new normal for some time. But if we use them smartly, they can offer a major improvement to all our working lives beyond the time of the virus. There is already a lot being written about this crisis expediting the ‘Future of Work’. We can highly recommend the book Remote: Office Not Required by David Heinemeier Hansson and Jason Fried and the price seems right:


Regarding privacy concerns here’s an important piece from Consumer Reports worth checking out: “Zoom Calls Aren't as Private as You May Think. Here's What You Should Know.”

17 steps/tips at a glance:

  1. Why actually have the event? What will this event enable you or others to do that you couldn’t do before, and is it worth the energy? If not, scrap it or redesign it.
  2. Maximize the ‘before’: The ‘before’ the event can be as important as the event itself.
  3. Zen master your tech and tools: Use good tech (we use Zoom but others are good too: Google Hangouts, Microsoft Teams, WebEx, BlueJeans) — and know how to use it.
  4. Share the timezone pain: Support your colleagues and partners by not forcing any one person to show up at midnight each time.
  5. Limit ‘no-shows’: Sending out calendar invites and a clear and compelling agenda that signals audience participation can help limit no-shows.
  6. Use a quiet space: Pick a quiet and well-lit space and you get bonus points for great visual backdrops.
  7. Ninja agenda: The flow of your event should have a clear logic model and always connect back to your objectives and desired outcomes.
  8. Prepare your presenters to sing (not literally but figuratively): Help speakers, sometimes with a kind but heavy hand, to prepare their points so they’re clear and they fit into the time allotted.
  9. Don’t stretch it out but do stretch: Never go for more than 90 minutes straight, take breaks when you can, and stretch if you can…literally. 60 minutes is our recommended max but shorter can be sweeter and better.
  10. Be prepared for tech snafus: Tech will go wrong so just stay calm, have a backup and laugh a little (or a lot).
  11. Moderation is key: You need an excellent, confident, emotionally intelligent event moderator (we like to call them DJs) who also has enough knowledge of the topic and the people to pull the puzzle pieces together with grace.
  12. Get interactive, include social glue and inclusivity: You’ll have a better event if people feel engaged and heard — use tools like polling and chat boxes. When appropriate don’t be afraid to get personal — especially now when the safety and health of loved ones is a primary concern.
  13. Great visuals stick: People learn better through visuals — prepare infographics and photos but only use them if they are great.
  14. Planned spontaneity: The agenda is a guideline, not a law — adjust as needed for time and content — especially if a breakthrough moment presents itself. A good moderator will do this naturally.
  15. Well-noted: Take live and open-sourced notes (where other people can also contribute), Google Docs are great and allow and encourage everyone to contribute.
  16. 24-hour follow up: Share any salient points, resources (including visuals) and provide a link to the recording and/or transcript of the chat where relevant to participants within a day.
  17. (Appropriate) levels of fun and humour help: We’re all in this together. You can keep the event professional and it can also be deeply human, light, warm and fun. Research shows that play and fun bring the best out of people — even, or especially, in the hardest of times.

17 steps in more detail:

1. Why actually have the event?

We always strive to write out a clear purpose with corresponding objectives and desired outputs for any event we are hosting, whether that’s online or offline, since they can then be incorporated into the written agenda later.

Firstly, we decide on the purpose: What is the event intended for? Is it for driving decisions, trust-building or influencing (who will do what)?

Secondly, we set out the specific objectives and concrete outputs of the event.

This becomes the basis for everything else. It can and likely should be short — often no more than half of a page.

Bonus — Breakouts: Depending on the size and length of the event you can, and maybe should, integrate virtual breakouts. How? Assign appropriate groups of people with their own video link and ask them to meet as a smaller group and then come back to the larger group. They can have a Google Doc as a virtual whiteboard. On reporting back to the larger group remember to give good instructions here or else someone will say — “He said this, and then she said that…’’ This is not helpful. Instead ask people to report back the top three points of agreement and top points of disagreement, or what was the most counterintuitive thing that came up in the breakout. Again, it all depends on the goals of the event.

2. Maximize the ‘before’

An event is much more than the actual event — it’s the engagement with opportunities that come before, during and after. This means that the planning, your communications and organisational skills leave a strong impression and can positively or negatively impact the event before you even press ‘join’. Susan McPherson, CEO and founder of McPherson Strategies suggests that “the most successful events make it possible for attendees to connect prior to the actual start. Any opportunities for the host to create communities beforehand will enhance the experience for all.”

Sometimes the goal of the event can be reached by just planning the event itself (although you still need to do the event). For example, simply getting two people together who normally wouldn’t connect can forge a new partnership. Suzanne Ehlers, CEO of the Malala Fund and Marius Möhler, LEAD also recommends scheduling a ‘work and prep on your own’ meeting before the actual event, to reinforce the critical nature of pre-work in this new circumstance.

3. Zen master your tech and tools

Switching to a dedicated video conferencing software such as Zoom will enhance your attendees’ experience, and offers all of the functionality a host or moderator needs to run an effective event with absolute professional aplomb (except teleporting…yet). Check out the different options on Zoom. There is a free version with the basics but we recommend getting the paid version with features if possible. Also, Zoom has international phone numbers if accessing via the web link isn’t possible.

Bonus- Ease people in: A point that came up when soliciting feedback from others is that some government counterparts might need to take a bit of a leap of faith when using new video conferencing tools. According to Andrew Collingwood, one simple hack is to introduce the new platform with just one person on the government side to begin with so that they become more comfortable and familiar with Zoom or similar. Later on there will be more buy-in when there is a larger virtual event as it’s easier to see the benefit of using the tool.

4. Share the timezone pain

At Apolitical, the joy of our work is that we collaborate with governments (170 of them) and teams from around the world — but this means engaging with a number of different time zones. Recognise that every so often, an event will have to take place at an unsociable hour, and work to make it fair. If your Australian colleague has to be online at 10pm one week, the event should take place at a time that works for them the week after. This is a good karma maker.

5. Limit ‘no-shows’

You can limit no-shows in several ways:

  • Have a reputation as an organisation that is great at virtual events.
  • Have a clear and interesting agenda that signals there will be interaction and get great presenters. This doesn’t necessarily mean big names but rather relevant names to your audience.
  • Send a calendar invite with video/call-in details to attendees that RSVP to the event. Include the agenda, relevant background material, which software you’re using and whether they will have to download special plug-ins or apps to join. Specify that if you are doing an interactive session, a smartphone won’t be enough. One tip is to send out the invite to start 5 minutes before the actual start time.
  • Send an email reminder 24 hours in advance with all relevant information and updates.
  • For participants to RSVP, Eventbrite can be a good friend and demand less admin from you.

6. Use a quiet space

Use a suitable quiet room (a memorable background is smart) and test your sound before the event begins (do this with your presenters too — more on this later).

Bonus Tip — Mute Them: The good news about Zoom is that if the presenter or attendees don’t know how to use the mute function then you have the power to mute them! You’ve all been on a call with distracting and sometimes hilarious background noise: kids, dogs and blaring bad 80s music.

7. Ninja agenda

Write a detailed agenda with a clear logic model that connects to your objectives, and get presenter buy-in. Make sure the agenda is designed for introverts (who need time to think) and extroverts (who love to contribute but can crowd out others). Posing questions in the chatbox helps. Most importantly, set out your expectations for everyone in terms of timing and hold people to it. Be careful not to over-schedule or have too many topics. Give room to breathe, reflect and be spontaneous. Nobody was ever upset by an event that ended early.

8. Prepare your presenters to sing (not literally but figuratively)

Warning — this is often the hardest part.

Presenters can add invaluable insights to your event, but especially when you’re online, help them make what they say matter and do so in an effective and efficient way. Less is often more but that is hard for experts (especially ones who have been locked in their office these days) and do all you can to set them up for success. Everybody wins. See behavioural science insights in Appendix A.

Give memorable introductions: The moderator will be introducing the presenters. In advance of the event we like to ask people to give us something about themselves that isn’t obvious in their bio that drives their work or thinking. Never read out someone’s full bio. Super boring. Instead, send bios in advance to participants and post links in the chat. This is always very powerful and memorable.

Examples: One time we included in a minister’s introduction why he wears a turban (and he is from a country where this is not common). It ended up being a profound window into why he advocates for underdogs. He told us that it was only the second time he had ever shared this story.

Another time we introduced a minister who has a single letter last name. He shared how hard digital services are for him to use since most government forms require at least two character entries. That experience drove him to want to quickly reform the overall digital experience for all citizens.

What should they say?: We give speakers specific questions to answer and/or a mandate which is as clear as possible on what we want them to cover and why. We, in general, remind presenters ideally to have one or two main points and two to three supporting points/anecdotes/etc. per point. Of course, that doesn’t always work depending on the topic or goal of the event. We ask for talking points in advance to help drive the focus and utility of their remarks and to ensure it fits in the time allotted. This might seem a bit heavy-handed but we find the input greatly increases events’ effectiveness and, in the end, speakers are grateful for the preparation.

Dynamic formats: Often, better than the traditional (often boring) “round-robin” approach to presenters, we like to mix it up with a very dynamic format. In Appendix B is the email text and script we shared in advance with presenters at the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos in January 2020 (the script still works for online events too). We then held them to it with great feedback. This isn’t meant to be a hard and fast script style but instead just an idea to share for people to expand off or share entirely different dynamic formats.

Dress rehearsal with presenters: We strongly recommend a video call (tech check) or phone call to talk through the event with the presenters. It will help put everyone at ease. Make sure the presenter has a good headset to reduce background noise or to avoid them having to lean too close into the camera to be heard, otherwise everyone will see their nose hairs. One of our contributors, Andrew Collingwood, told us that for their in-person panels they always do briefings based on individual conversations. “This type of brief is a bit of a lost art form. I imagine that for virtual panels and events this can be just as valuable, ensuring that there is a common understanding and frame for the panel that can then evolve and meander when it happens. Basically, it builds a stronger foundation.”

Presenters on early: Ask presenters to join the call at least 15 minutes early so there are no problems with the tech. Just be prepared that there will be some eager early birds that aren’t the presenters — remember to say hi to them!

Bonus — Length of presentations: Presentations should be no longer than 15 minutes if possible, but preferably shorter!

9. Don’t stretch it out but do stretch

Ideally, online events are NO LONGER THAN 60 minutes. If it must be longer, never make people sit for more than 90 minutes to ensure focus. If you can, try and build in a few stretching or walking breaks, where all the participants can have two minutes to grab some water or a cup of tea, or shake it off à la Taylor Swift. We know it sounds cheesy but people, even if they don’t do it, really appreciate it.

Bonus —Break it up: Instead of having one very long online event, think of a series.

10. Be prepared for tech snafus

If you’ve ever videoed with your grandma you’ll be used to the not-so-sporadic network failures, WiFi troubles and sound issues, and you should be prepared for the same problems when moving your events to remote. In a recent event, a senior government official ran out of data halfway through a big speech and was offline until she borrowed someone’s phone — no one is immune from the perils of tech! Stay calm — everyone expects it.

You should have a host (someone who is the technology grand master) and a separate moderator for your event.

If using Zoom, participants can also dial in using their phone, so offer this as an option at the start in case their line drops (even if you have shared before).

And, we always have a backup plan such as a spare laptop to hand, and use humour as things work themselves out.

11. Moderation is key

You need an excellent, confident, emotionally intelligent moderator (we like to call them DJs) who also has enough knowledge of the topic and key players to pull the puzzle pieces together with grace. They should set out the rules of the event from the off (such as how to get the attention of the moderator), to ensure that the event runs smoothly and everyone is included.

One of our contributors, Marius Möhler, also suggests using a co-moderator for very interactive sessions too. This could even help upskill some of your colleagues so you can take it in turns to moderate events.

Bonus — time czar by iPhone: The moderator needs to be the time czar and they will be respected for being so if they do it well. The moderator can show the countdown clock on the screen by holding up the smartphone timer to the camera or Robin Hodess of the B-Team uses the sound of ‘chirping birds’ to let the speaker know the time is up. It informs the presenter and adds (friendly) group pressure to not go over time.

12. Get interactive, include social glue and inclusivity

If done right, online events provide excellent opportunities for more inclusivity (and perhaps even remove some of the conscious and unconscious bias) as the moderator is more aware of who is speaking and who is not with “Gallery View.” Whilst there is no doubt that you want your online event to be professional, it is extremely important to build in social and personal interactions to forge stronger connections and to increase trust between participants.

Face-time makes good-time (mostly): For large, discussion-based events have at least everyone wave hello at the start and then say a quick goodbye at the end if bandwidth is an issue. This creates better engagement amongst attendees and allows them to feel more connected to one another. Active presenters should have their video on whilst speaking.

Intros: We invite attendees to introduce themselves (where they’re from, their organisations and what they do) in the chat as soon as they join. We encourage everyone to show up as ‘real people’ too rather than mandating an overly professional atmosphere because we have found that this inspires more in-depth and effective conversations. We do this by asking ice-breaker questions like:

  • On a scale of one to ten, ten being high and one being low, how optimistic are you about the state of the world, and give one-word why?
  • What are you currently reading that is not work-related? What is your one-word take-away?

Notice the practice of getting people to narrow down their response in a word. Why?:

  • It takes less time;
  • It forces people to edit down to a sentiment or clear point; and
  • Is more memorable than blah blah blah.

This is also a great way to sense the mood of participants. If you have a large group just ask people to give their response via chat and have the moderator narrate and summarise the responses. Small groups can do it via video, swiftly, one by one with voice and video. The moderator can always go back to a word used by someone and ask them to expand.

Q&A: These can be tricky. Often people don’t actually ask questions, they make statements. This is why we prefer to have questions posted in the chatbox. The moderator will have more control and can see: 1. Who asked the question first or 2. If there are clustering of questions. One of our contributors, Stacey Featherstone, Facebook said: “With participants able to vote on questions and the presenter taking the top 3 or so, this bundles the questions, and tracks the questions that go unanswered for follow up later.”

Bonus — Virtual Raised Hand: Another option, if you’re open to taking the verbal Q&A per participant, is to ask them to virtually raise their hand in the chatbox. It’s a smart function and helps the moderator keep track.

Polling/Voting: As mentioned, Zoom offers polling options which you can use to engage participants at the start, middle and end of the event. After people have voted you can share the results with participants. We use this function to get a baseline on attendees’ expertise, thoughts, etc. and try to always do a pre-post question to make sure we’ve moved the needle on clarity, learning and more.

Get them to commit: We’ve had great feedback by asking people to make a commitment/set an intention at the end publicly in the chatbox and on our site. According to behavioural science, when people make commitments publicly they are more likely to keep them. We then send them a reminder two weeks later to see if they have done it.

Everyone with a seat at the table: Again, and importantly, the chatbox makes your event more democratic, encouraging those who think they shouldn’t ‘take up time’ in the event to chip in. The best thing about a virtual event is that everyone is around the same table and there is no one sitting in the back row. Be on the lookout for whom you do NOT see engaging.

Accessibility: Making online events more accessible for those with disabilities should be a vital consideration, just as it would be with an in-person event. Prior to your meeting, you should ascertain if any of your participants have any accessibility needs. Include a line in the invitation which invites those to get in contact if they require any adjustments. Zoom, for example, has closed captioning which can be assigned by the host to any participant to type for attendees who might have a hearing impairment.

Interactive brainstorming: It can be difficult to replicate the experience of an in-person, high-intensity brainstorming or post-it session online. Whilst there probably is no match for the ‘in real life’ experience, it is still very possible to do with online tools such as MURAL or through using a Google Doc which everyone can contribute to in real-time.

Chat Box: We received a lot of suggestions around the use of the chatbox. Some might say, “Wow, if people are always looking at and engaging with the chatbox then nobody will be listening to the presenters/presentations.” True, multi-tasking can be bad. But there is a trade-off between driving engagement and asking people to stare at a screen — and frankly, if you don’t engage people they might just be reading their email or surfing the web. You’ve read the research on people’s attention spans. The moderator can draw people’s attention to the presenters at critical/the most important times. They can even say, “We’re going to take a break from the chatbox now to focus on the important inputs of our presenter.”

13. Great visuals stick

90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual, and 40% of people respond better to visuals than to text. Encourage or support your presenters to share great visuals when relevant — such as an infographic — with not too much text and powerful photography or graphics. Check the visuals before they are used and scrap it if they aren’t great (or help them make them great). We also recommend that you, not them, do the screen sharing of the visuals (avoids loads of potential hiccups.)

Bonus — No videos over video: We have tried many times to stream video over Zoom and it has never worked well. If you want people to see a video, share it before and after the event.

14. Planned spontaneity

No matter how well you plan your agenda, things happen, and it doesn’t do you or your participants any good to hold fast to a time schedule that no longer makes sense. Don’t be afraid to move things around or cut sections which you don’t have appropriate time for or which discussion has made less relevant. Cramming everything into insufficient time makes the whole event less effective, and participants will appreciate you making the most of their time.

15. Well (and live)-noted

It is a fact well-known that hardly anyone reads minutes. However, it’s possible to revolutionise this too. Have someone taking notes in a Google Doc alongside the event, serving as a live record of decisions, salient points and/or outstanding questions. You can also have agendas from previous events in the document, suggests Suzanne Ehlers, contributing to more accountability. Share the Google Doc link in the chatbox. This also goes for brainstorming. Everyone can join an anonymous Google Doc and fill the sheet with ideas. This also allows junior members or introverts to contribute to the discussion better. Share the notes with everyone and record the next steps.

Bonus — Live Visualizing: During a #SkollGoesVirtual meeting on Imperative 21- a business-led, cross-sector coalition working to align incentives and shift culture so capitalism works for the benefit of all stakeholders — an artist did a live visulization of everyone’s comments and shared at the end of the call. People feel heard and have a good sharable record.

16. 24-hour follow-up

Share tidied-up notes (with decisions and/or outstanding questions) and any resources within 24-hours. Don’t forget to thank the presenters. Invite feedback from participants to see if you can improve next time around. With Zoom, it’s also possible to record events and save the transcript of the chat. You also can share it with those who were unable to join. Always make sure presenters are okay with the event being recorded.

17. (Appropriate) levels of fun and humour help

It might take a while to adjust to the new normal of remote working and video conferencing. In the meantime, try and ease the pain for everyone and make it as easy as possible. Include ice-breaker activities, make it personal and have a laugh. Play charades as a way to wake everyone up halfway through. Get everyone to bring along their favourite coffee mug, an adult beverage, find a funky background (or use Zoom’s virtual background tool) or share a story — let’s break free from the traditional event setup. We once even had people show up wearing costumes. Other times people have videoed in from interesting places (front lines, for example). Working remotely, the Apolitical team has even started wearing funny hats to the weekly all-hands meeting.

Appendix A — Checklist on using insights from behavioural science for good influence

  1. Powerful emotions: We are more likely to share what we’ve seen if it evokes strong and activating emotions like awe, anger, and joy. Although a study of the Chinese Twitter-like site Weibo found that anger spreads fastest within the online social network, research shows that people are more likely to share positive content than negative content. What may be driving that finding? Those doing the sharing want the recipient to associate them with the cute, inspiring, funny or happy message (Berger J. and Milkman K. 2012; Guadagno R. E. et al. 2013; Fan R et al. 2014).
  2. Big Ideas, Core Values: We first understand a specific policy issue — like “protecting the environment” or “early childhood development” — by placing it within the frame of a broader idea or moral value — like “justice” or “fairness.” For people who are not experts, this higher-level framing often drives whether or not they support a specific policy recommendation. Changing the higher-level frame can dramatically shift support for an issue (Frameworks Institute, 2002).
  3. Loss Aversion: We feel the pain of losses more strongly than the joy of gains. Organisations trying to make the world better for kids should tell governments, businesses, and communities what they will lose by failing to invest in education, health care or social development.
  4. Scarcity: When there’s less of something, we want more of it (Cialdini, 2006).
  5. Reciprocation: We feel a profoundly powerful pull to give back to those who give to us. Few of us enjoy feeling like we’re in debt to others — and so many people respond to a favour by granting a larger favour in return (Cialdini, 2006).
  6. Incentive: People want to know what’s in it for them to support a particular organisation or cause. Research shows that the science of what drives people is more complicated than many people believe. Internal motivators are much more powerful than external motivators like money (Pink, 2011).
  7. Liking: We are more likely to do things for people we like. We can get people to like us by giving them (genuine — most people see through insincerity) compliments, showing them what we have in common, and cooperating (Cialdini, 2006).
  8. Social Proof: Most (but not all) people will look to the actions of others to determine their own actions, especially when they are uncertain (Cialdini, 2006).
  9. Authority: People tend to follow the lead of credible experts (there is an attack on experts these days) (Cialdini, 2006).
  10. Curse of Knowledge: Being an expert is a liability when trying to communicate to non-experts. We have difficulty imagining what it is like for people to not know something that we know. Steven Pinker (and Apolitical advisor), an experimental psychologist and Harvard University professor, calls this the curse of knowledge. Because of this curse, many of us have a natural tendency to use jargon and shortcuts in our speaking and writing that prevent people outside of the field from understanding what we mean (Pinker, 2014).

Appendix B — Sample email and script prepping presenters

Dear all :

I am very much looking forward to moderating your session on Thursday.

IMPORTANT: Below please find the ‘script’ for our time together. You’ll see we only have 45 minutes. As you know, the purpose of the session is to give a big picture overview of the state of the field, trends, opportunities, and threats. I have designed it to be engaging and pacy. Unfortunately, with such little time, we won’t be able to go deep on any one topic.

The session will be much more effective if you closely follow the structure. I keep the timing very tight, purposely (in an easy and even fun way).

Please prepare your responses in advance so they are crisp, perhaps non-obvious and memorable (Tweetable).

I have used this format to great success many times. It looks rigid but actually it flows nicely and forces, in the best way possible, clear articulation of your points. I also feel out the room and engage the audience when appropriate and ask relevant follow-up questions to your responses.

  • ACTION: Will you each write me back stating (in rough bullet points) the number one thing you want to communicate through your role on the panel? I am committed to making sure that happens.
  • ACTION: I have drafted a personalized placeholder question for each of you. If you don’t want me to ask that question please suggest another one ASAP.
  • ACTION: If at all possible, I’d very much like to speak to each of you, even for 5 minutes before our session. Please drop me a note re: a good time to talk.

I am very much looking forward to hearing from you soon and meeting you Thursday.


Lisa Witter

Co-Founder of Apolitical

Co-Chair of WEF Global Future Council on Agile Governance

Session Structure:

Technology Governance: Global Priorities

Topic: The technologies driving the Fourth Industrial Revolution are under increasing regulatory and public scrutiny. What are the most pressing governance priorities from trade, economic, safety and security perspectives?.

11:30–11:34 (Lisa Witter — moderator)

Welcome + Framing Event

Audience polling Q1: What sector do you represent?

  • Private sector — large company
  • Private sector — start-up
  • Tech company
  • NGO
  • Media
  • Academia
  • Government
  • Other

Audience polling Q2: What’s the state of Global Tech Governance? 10 (10 — it’s all figured out and all parties are happy, to 1 — it’s absolute chaos, the Wild West with a prediction of no real movement on this in 2020).

Audience polling Q3: The technologies driving the Fourth Industrial Revolution are under increasing regulatory and public scrutiny. What are the most pressing governance priorities (rank)?

  • Economic growth
  • Personal safety
  • National security
  • Privacy

11:34–11:36 (Lisa)


  • Panelist 1
  • Panelist 2
  • Panelist 3

*I will share an anecdote you shared with me with the audience too.

11:36–11:40 (all panelists)

I will ask each of you what you scored on the state of global tech governance question and then ask you each, in ONE word, to summarize the state as you see it. You’ll then have one minute to give your reasoning why. (Please keep your answers short, on time and to the point.)

11:40–11:42 (all panelists)

I will also ask you about your ranking of the 2nd polling question on pressing priorities with a short sentence why.

11:42–11:50 (all panelists)

Can you each give an example of tech governance either gone really right or really wrong and why? (2 minutes each)


(Panelist 1) The discussion on technology governance is dominated by the big technology companies and the big technology superpowers US, China, and the EC. In one word (and then explain it in 2 minutes), how can we make sure technology governance is inclusive and that the conversation also includes small and medium-sized enterprises and developing companies?


(Panelist 2) Agile governance and policy piloting and experimentation are seen as an important addition to the traditional policy-making techniques for governing emerging technologies to address the speed of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. How can we bring agility in addressing global technology questions in ONE word and then explain in two minutes how/what governments can and should do (in 2 minutes)?


(Panelist 3) In a context where data is a big source of competitive advantage and where arguments for data localization and data sovereignty as measures to preserve the competitiveness of their economy are being explored, in ONE word (and then explain in 2 minutes) how can we bring stakeholders together and move the discussion forward?

11:59–12:06 (all panelists)

I will ask each of you to say, in ONE word, what you see as the biggest threat or opportunity (pick one) to effective global tech governance in the next year then you have one minute to give your reasoning why. (Please keep your answers short, on time and to the point.)

12:06- 12:09 (all panelists)

In a sentence, if you could wave a magic wand to ‘fix’ or advance global tech governance what would you do? (1 sentence each)

12:09–12:11 (audience)

I’ll ask the audience to give us their main takeaways from the session — in one word.

Audience polling Q4: After hearing this session did it leave you more or less optimistic about the future of technology governance?

12:11- 12:13

Closing words: Managing Director, World Economic Forum

12:13–12:15 (Lisa)



Co-founder,, behavioral science junkie, optimist about politics: Apolitical Academy, co-chair of WEF Agile Governance Council — mom & (tap)dancer